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The Secret Pleasures of Menopause

Christiane Northrup, MD
Carlsbad, CA; Hay House: 2008
168 pages

Dr. Christiane Northrup's newest publication represents a departure from her usual lengthy tomes. The Secret Pleasures of Menopause is petite, playful, and pocket-sized. It is a flirty, free-spirited self-help manual that invites women to embark on a midlife pleasure quest.

The author suggests that the “physical and emotional discomfort many of us experience at perimenopause is in effect the labor pains of giving birth to our new, best selves.” She urges the reader to engage in “emotional house cleaning,” to “let go of what we've outgrown that no longer serves us,” and to nurture a “passionate relationship with yourself and your life.”

Dr. Northrup's premise is that the experience of pleasure causes our body to increase its production of nitric oxide, which she describes is “the spark of life ... the physical equivalent of life energy, chi or prana.” Invoking the hallowed research of her Nobel Prize-winning collaborator Ferid Murad MD, PhD, the author expounds upon the life-sustaining benefits of nitric oxide and its role in the prevention of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. She concludes that nitric oxide is “the actual molecule that determines physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual wellness in menopausal women.” The book explains that “sex creates health” because it leads to the release of nitric oxide from blood vessels, and she deduces that “the deliberate cultivation of more pleasure in life actually helps heal the body.”

Dr. Northrup's pleasure prescription is not limited to sex (although she does mention the clitoris a lot!). She recommends a multifaceted approach to pleasure through sensual and spiritual exploration. She encourages women to pursue creative hobbies, cultivate healthy relationships, release negative thoughts, and learn to love their middle-aged bodies and souls. In addition to the standard advice on diet, exercise, and supplements, she shares the wisdom of Taoist and Tantric masters, tells us how to purchase pheromones through the Internet, and introduces us to pelvic exercises performed with a jade egg. We learn some basic techniques of The Desilets Method (a program dedicated to the education and empowerment of sexual energy), we are invited to enroll in “Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts,” or to become trained in the technique of EMO (extended massive orgasm). Who knew?

For readers interested in the latest data on hormone therapy, an analysis of current menopausal research publications, or a cure for hot flashes -- you will not find it in this book. What you will find is a prescription for self-affirmation, a cure for self-doubt, and the assertion that the universe wants you to be happy.

Review written by:

Elizabeth H. B. Mandell, MD
Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Division of Midlife Health
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia

The comments contained here are opinions or information of the reviewers and not necessarily the opinions or information of The North American Menopause Society, its officers, agents, or Trustees. Oversight for the book reviews is given by David A. Hutchins, MD, a member of the NAMS Consumer Education Committee.
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